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Workforce Update

Construction Companies Hiring But Can't Find Skilled Workers

Seventy-nine percent of construction firms plan to expand their payrolls in 2019, but an almost equal percentage are worried about their ability to locate and hire qualified workers, according to survey results released by the Associated General Contractors of America and Sage Construction and Real Estate. The findings are detailed in Contractors Remain Confident About Demand, Worried About Labor Supply: The 2019 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Report.
 
“Construction executives appear to remain confident about their market prospects for 2019 and plan to add headcount to cope with the added workload,” Roger Marlin, president of the Associated General Contractors of Arkansas (AGC Arkansas), says.  “Even as they are optimistic about growing demand, contractors are concerned about finding qualified workers to execute projects.”
 
Right now, Arkansas' workforce is facing a challenge. More than 23 percent of the current skilled professionals are at or near retirement age, and our state's workforce isn't prepared to fill the positions our retiring workers are creating.
 
These labor shortages are having an impact on construction costs and project schedules, AGC of America officials noted. One-third of respondents report that staffing challenges are driving costs higher than anticipated. In reaction, 37 percent of firms are putting higher prices into new bids and contracts. Similarly, 34 percent report projects have taken longer than they anticipated.
 
Firms continue to raise pay and provide bonuses and benefits in response to labor shortages. Fifty-nine percent of firms report they increased base pay rates. Twenty-nine percent provided incentives and/or bonuses. Twenty-four percent of firms increased contributions or improved employee benefits to cope with workforce shortages.
 
Many firms are also investing more in training programs for current and new workers. Sixty-three percent of firms report they plan to increase investments in training and development in 2019, up from 52 percent at the beginning of last year. 
 
LOOK AGAIN
The industry is hot, and it's one that can't be shipped overseas.  It's time to take another look at construction careers.  Don't confuse today's high-tech, high-paying, stable construction careers with the stigmas of yesteryear.
 
AGC Arkansas is a proud partner of Be Pro Be Proud (www.beprobeproud.org), the statewide skilled workforce initiative of the construction, trucking and manufacturing industries committed to bringing a new generation of pride, progress and professionals to Arkansas.  By changing how Arkansans think about the job opportunities provided by skilled professions, we can inspire Arkansans and lead them, and our state, down the path to prosperity.
Not only do these professionals start with salaries around $40,000 per year – comparable and often higher than the first jobs of college graduates – but they can earn while they learn.  In many cases, training will be paid for by the employer and one will graduate from apprenticeship or technical schools with no-debt compared to steep college loan debt.  
 
AGC Arkansas has partnered with the Arkansas Construction Education Foundation (ACEF), which offers training for electrical, plumbing, carpentry, HVAC and/or industrial maintenance at 11 locations around the state. AGC and ACEF work together to help those interested to find employment and the right career path. Learn more at www.myacef.org or call (501) 372-1590.
 
TECHNOLOGY IN CONSTRUCTION
“As growing demand and labor shortages force contractors to do more with less, many firms are also increasing their investments in labor-saving technologies and techniques like building information modeling (BIM), lean construction (LEAN) and robotics,” Ken Simonson, AGC of America's chief economist, says. He noted that 32 percent of respondents report their firms are using methods to reduce onsite work time, including lean construction, virtual construction techniques or offsite prefabrication. Twenty-eight percent are investing in labor-saving equipment, including drones, robots and 3-D printers.
 
AGC Arkansas offers the state's only LEAN Construction and BIM training and certification (CM-LEAN, CM-BIM) programs in the state.  AGC partnered with the construction management professors at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to offer LEAN and BIM to the industry and are excited to launch these programs in Northwest Arkansas in partnership with John Brown University later this year.
 
Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC of America's chief executive officer, noted that the association is committed to making sure our leaders in Washington act to support continued economic growth in 2019. He noted that AGC will continue to advocate for new infrastructure investments, regulatory reforms, federal funding for career and technical education, and comprehensive immigration reform. He added that the association will continue to offer ways to help member firms embrace and adopt new labor-saving technology and techniques. 
 
“Our goal is to ensure that the construction industry expands in 2019 amid growing demand for new projects and an infusion of new and qualified workers,” Sandherr says. “If that happens, the entire economy will benefit.” 

This story is featured in the June construction issue of Arkansas Money & Politics.

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